Governors kick off unity round

Governors kick off unity round

The governors of 21 provinces in the Central Plain will team up with officers from the !st Army to gather views of people in their provinces on national reconciliation as the government expands its push for forging unity upcountry.

The governors were invited to have a talk with 1st Army commander Apirat Kongsompong on Friday on their joint move in a meeting of the chiefs of all units under the 1st Army and representatives from the Internal Security Operations Command.

Lt Gen Apirat said the governors will be the “key men” in this initial stage to gather useful opinions from people from all walks of life. The military chiefs will serve as supporters and coordinators to invite target groups to air their views at the roundtable meetings, he said.

They are divided into four groups – local politicians, scholars, state officials and business persons in the provinces and community leaders and non-governmental organisations.

They will be encouraged to talk on 10 topics, set by the panel appointed to work on a process to restore national unity, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, which has been disrupted as a result of severe political conflicts between pro- and anti-Thaksin groups since 2006.

The topics include proposals to solve political problems in a peaceful manner, ways to ensure equality among people and attempts to combat corruption, which was cited as a reason to stage the protests which sometimes led to the conflicts.

“I would like all participants to adopt impartial attitudes when considering the 10 topics plus an extra one,” Lt Gen Apirat said, referring to a question raised by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha who wants to know how all parties view the ongoing problems facing the country and how they can help solve them bringing back a peaceful atmosphere.

The 1st Army commander admitted that officials are working under a time constraint, but “I trust the governors’ potential”, he said, expecting the opinion gathering process at the provincial level to be completed within this month.

Lt Gen Apirat also said he is not worried over the process though there are rival political groups in these provinces.

Once the governors finish their work, the opinions will be sent to a sub-panel led by permanent secretary for defence, Chaicharn Changmongkol.

Gen Chaicharn’s group has invited several political parties since Feb 14 to gather their views on ways to rebuild national unity. The meeting with all parties should be finished by the end of this month.

Recently, Lt Gen Apirat also had separate talks with former Pheu Thai MP Wattana Muangsuk on the reconciliation effort.

“I think he has a very good political vision, his suggestions can help with reconciliation,”
Lt Gen Apirat said.

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